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Philip Gilbert Hamerton An Autobiography, 1834-1858, and a Memoir by His Wife, 1858-1894   By: (1834-1894)

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1834 1858


1858 1894

"Intellectual living is not so much an accomplishment as a state or condition of the mind in which it seeks earnestly for the highest and purest truth.... If we often blunder and fail for want of perfect wisdom and clear light, have we not the inward assurance that our aspiration has not been all in vain, that it has brought us a little nearer to the Supreme Intellect whose effulgence draws us while it dazzles?" The Intellectual Life .


About twelve years ago my husband told me that he had begun to write an Autobiography intended for publication, but not during his lifetime. He worked upon it at intervals, as his literary engagements permitted, but I found after his sudden death that he had only been able to carry it as far as his twenty fourth year. Such a fragment seemed too brief for separate publication, and I earnestly desired to supplement it by a Memoir, and thus to give to those who knew and loved his books a more complete understanding of his character and career. But though I longed for this satisfaction and solace, the task seemed beyond my power, especially as it involved the difficulty of writing in a foreign language. Considering, however, that the Autobiography was carried, as it happened, up to the date of our marriage, and that I could therefore relate all the subsequent life from intimate knowledge, as no one else could, I was encouraged by many of Mr. Hamerton's admirers to make the attempt, and with the great and untiring help of his best friend, Mr. Seeley, I have been enabled to complete the Memoir such as it is.

I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Sidney Colvin and to his co executor for having allowed the insertion of Mr. R. L. Stevenson's letters; to Mr. Barrett Browning for those of his father; to Sir George and Lady Reid, Mr. Watts, Mr. Peter Graham, and Mr. Burlingame for their own.

I also beg Mr. A. H. Palmer to accept the expression of my gratitude for his kind permission to use as a frontispiece to this book the fine photograph taken by him.


September , 1896.




My reasons for writing an Autobiography. That a man knows the history of his own life better than a biographer can know it. Frankness and reserve. The contemplation of death.



My birthplace. My father and mother. Circumstances of their marriage. Their short married life. Birth of their child. Death of my mother. Her character and habits. My father as a widower. Dulness of his life. Its degradation.


1835 1841.

My childhood is passed at Barnley with my aunts. My grandfather and grandmother. Estrangement between Gilbert Hamerton and his brother of Hellifield Peel. Death of Gilbert Hamerton. His taste for the French language. His travels in Portugal, and the conduct of a steward during his absence. His three sons. Aristocratic tendencies of his daughters. Beginning of my education. Visits to my father.



A tour in Wales in 1842. Extracts from my Journal of this tour. My inborn love for beautiful materials. Stay at Rhyl. Anglesea and Caernarvon. Reasons for specially remembering this tour.


1843 1844.

A painful chapter to write. My father calls me home. What kind of a house it was. Paternal education and discipline. My life at that time one of dulness varied by dread.



My extreme loneliness. Thoughts of flight. My father's last illness and death. Circumstances of my last interview with him. His funeral.



Dislike to Shaw in consequence of the dreadful life I lead there with my father. My guardian. Her plan for my education. Doncaster School. Mr. Cape and his usher. The usher's intolerance of Dissenters... Continue reading book >>

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